Holidays can really suck the life out of you.  They aren’t always bad, but they are time consuming.  And getting sick afterwards seems to be standard for the last few years.  But I’m back!

The only major project I’ve been working on is a tunic for my oldest daughter’s guy. It was a Christmas present that I thought would not take me that long to make. 3 or 4 years ago, I could have whipped it out in an afternoon.  It’s not that my sewing has gotten slower, but that I insist on doing more by hand.  I would die a little inside if I had to machine sew a gusset into a tunic. Then, of course, I couldn’t make it without some embroidery.  As simple as the pattern was, it still took time.  All-in-all, about 35 to 40 hours worth of work went into it.

It’s time to reevaluate the projects I’m in currently and the ones I need to start soon.

  1. Pleatwork apron needs work so that I can re-enter it into A&S.  Since I missed Winter Wonders this weekend, I don’t know when the next Regional A&S will be.
  2. Finish my blackwork needle case.  Working on this little bugger has taught me that really detailed blackwork is a long, long, long term project.  Looks like that Elizabethan coif may be my Kingdom A&S entry for 2014.
  3. Hubby needs a new under-tunic and hosen. Heavy fighting really gives garb a much shorter lifespan. Now that he has chain-mail, its life will be a little less. Any future fighting tunics will be either very simple or all machine sewn.  He looks damn good on the fighting field, but it breaks my heart a little to see my tunic getting beat upon.
  4. Hubby also needs a gambeson.  Partly that’s to give his nice blue tunic a little longer of a life.  It’s good for padding too.
  5. I want a total of three nice everyday use dresses. Dresses that are wash and wear, will hide the dirt and, if it gets a little dinged up, will still look good.  One for cold weather and two for hot weather.   I’m trying really hard not to obsess on them being 100% period.   My red and black corduroy cotte is a good cold weather one. That leaves me making 2 hot weather cottes.
    1. Side laced cotte
    2. 4 paneled cotte
  6. I want a total of 3 court outfits. I have 2: my Flemish and my green and blue cotte. The dress I’m going to make will probably be my A&S entry for Kingdom.   I’m thinking of a 4 paneled cotte that’s complete with the underclothing that goes with it.  Costume review? Maybe. Or maybe static costume.
  7. Tudor peasant outfit for my 14 y.o.
  8. Early period outfit for my 16 y.o.
  9. Make sure all the kids have enough clothes for Gulf Wars.
  10. Work on polishing the hand-outs for a couple of classes I want to teach at GW.

My list is growing every  minute. I better get to work!

A Cotehardie by Any Other Name Would Look Just as Lovely – Some Thoughts on Research

Terms . . . they make things more confusing than they should be, but that’s life. One of my first big “ah-ha” moments in research is that the word I may use for a specific thing is probably not the word that everyone else in the world uses. Be flexible when looking for something.

For example,  the majority of the world may call it a partlet, but if the best information on the net calls it a gollar, you’re never gonna find it by searching for partlet.

There is a myth (probably perpetuated by those who don’t research) that since the computer age, finding information is as simple as typing a couple of words into google. This anecdote will definitely age me, but back in college before the internet, I remember standing in front of the massive cabinets of the card catalog at my university’s library, pulling out drawers three feet long, and trying to find books on some particular topic. Actually some of my fondest memories are digging through the card catalog for hours and hours. I still remember the way they smelled. But I digress.

It would take hours and hours of sorting through topics and authors to find the books that might contain the bits of information I needed. Researching on the internet isn’t all that different. Sure, if you want some over-generalized, cursory information on a subject, it may take a few minutes. But if you want specifics and primary sources, it will take days. For some projects, I have spent more time researching than actually making the item.  Now, that may be reflected in some of my scores, but I was pretty certain my research was solid.

How does this relate to researching medieval and Renaissance clothing? Here’s a bit of advice.

When labeling a piece of garb, it’s best to be specific, but not term specific.  When writing the documentation for this dress I’m currently researching if/when I enter it into an SCA A&S I would call it a “15th Century Northern European Fitted Gown.” That is a pretty specific title, right?  However, I would not call it a cotehardie or cotte or cote or kirtle. Yes, those are specific terms, but those terms are very loaded and mean different things to different people, in different languages and in different contexts.

Yet, try researching or googling “15th Century Northern European Fitted Gown” and see how much you find. You may only find my blog and not much else that’s relevant. Thus I not only have to use the term cotehardie, which makes me cringe a little each time, but I also have to seed my blog with the terms cotte, cote, kirtle, gown and dress. I write to share the information I find and the conclusions I reach. I write both to help educate others and to get feedback on what I think.  If I don’t seed my blogs with those terms, no one would find these posts on that fitted dress.

Cotehardie is a pretty contentious word for medieval garb. First of  all, that word wasn’t used in period. Not only was it not used to describe what today we call a cotehardie, but it wasn’t used at all. It’s French in origin, meaning something like sturdy dress. I don’t know when it first popped up – I’m not that interested in the term. There is a chapter written on it in “Medieval Clothing and Textiles 4.” You can preview it in Google books here.

To add to the confusion, here are a few more names or variants on the spelling which I use when searching for information on that fitted dress found in the 13th to 15th centuries:

  • Cotehardy
  • Cote-hardie
  • Cotte
  • Cote
  • Kirtle

And that’s just English. Let’s try looking for the “cotte simple” or “Gothic fitted dress” in a few other languages:

  • German
    • Kittle
    • Cotta
  • Italian
    • Guarnacca
    • Cottardita
    • Gonnella
    • Cipriana
  • Polish
    • Suknia  spodnia
    • Suknia rozpinana
    • Jopula
  • Norwegian
    • Kjole
    • kyrtill
  • Swedish
    • klänning
    • överkjortel
    • surcot

Some of these mean “that” specific dress, and others simply mean dress or gown. In my research I’ve learned to say “women’s clothing” and “15th century” in about a dozen languages. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Research isn’t always easy. Don’t look at it straight-on. Try looking at it in as many creative ways as you can. It might surprise you what you may find.

Sometimes I think I should stick with the easy stuff. I have A-LOT of books and articles on period garb. I could just glance through them, pick a project and my documentation would be simple. But then I think, “What fun would that be?”

Side-Laced Cotte Project

Missed going to an event yesterday due to a mild case of accidental self-inflicted food poisoning. Turns out that I cooked that chicken 2 weeks ago and not 1 week ago. I used to wonder why food contaminated with bacteria wasn’t safe to eat after being cooked properly. Heat does kill the bacteria, after all. Turns out that it is not only the bacteria that gives you problems. Bacteria can both excrete toxins and produce them upon death. Killing them won’t make the food any safer to eat. The bacteria may be gone, but it’s still toxic. In fact some bacterial based diseases, like Lyme disease, can cause more pain during the cure than during the illness because it produces toxins as the antibiotics kill it.

All of that summed up, staying home with accidental self-inflicted food poisoning isn’t fun. And I missed teaching my class on patterning a simple coif. Staying in bed all day, watching tv shows on Netflix did give me the time to organize my research files. Also staring at the dress I was going to wear, my bi-colored cotehardie, still hanging on the back of the bedroom door, made me realize that I need more garb and that it doesn’t necessarily need to be all hand sewn to look nice.

What’s my new dress going to be? A solid colored cotte, laced on the sides rather than the front, and with short sleeves and tippets. I’m going to make false chemise sleeves and neckline so that when it’s over 100 degrees here in the summer, I’ll be in a cool one layer of linen. That light green linen I have will have to be dyed – I’m not making another dress of that color. I’m thinking dark green or dark blue would be nice.

I’m looking at the styles from the late 1400’s. I like the look of the 15th Century cotehardie.

The fabric is atrocious, but I like the style.

This one will be based on the four-paneled design rather than the 8-gore one. Now on to the research!

Hello There!

I do get manic at times. When I do, I immerse myself into something and don’t reemerge until I fully grok it. Some of the details may be forgotten later, but after the immersion it becomes a part of who I am.

I’m not an expert at anything yet. Some things I am really very good at and near expert level, like cooking and soap-making. Some things I am really bad at, like driving, singing or keeping the house clean. Most things fall somewhere in the middle.

One of the hardest things about learning and creating stuff is not being able to share it when that enthusiastic moment hits. You know, that “Oh wow! I so didn’t know that!” moment. Hopefully, I can now share without boring to tears my husband, who knows far more about gussets vs gores, iron gall vs carbon black ink, sautéing vs smothering and palm oil vs coconut oil in soap than anyone who doesn’t do these things should. At least you guys have the option of exiting the page.